01/26/2006, 00.00
LEBANON – USA
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Hariri in US, to see Bush tomorrow

by Youssef Hourany
The meeting will focus on Lebanese crisis. Nabih Berri levels harsh criticism at the government. Prime Minister Siniora will be in Amman tomorrow then fly to Cairo.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – Saad Hariri, head of the Future Party and son of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri who was murdered on February 14 last year, will meet US President George W. Bush in the White House tomorrow. He held talks with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice today.

His meetings are being closely watched by Lebanese political observers, especially in light of developments in the region, in particular in Lebanon itself, Syria and Palestine.

In Lebanon the ongoing political crisis—triggered by Shiite cabinet ministers' boycott—has not yet been resolved.

In an interview with the al-Jazeera TV network, Lebanese National Assembly Speaker Nabih Berri slammed the government and its main backers Walid Jumblatt, Samir Geagea and Saad Hariri for their alleged failure to back the Egyptian-Saudi attempt to re-establish fraternal relations between Lebanon and Syria.

Speaking from the United States, Saad Hariri said he had full confidence in the future of Lebanon, saying that the "only way to lead the country out of its crisis is to engage in a constructive dialogue with Hezbollah and Amal."

He urged Shiite ministers to go back and take their place in the cabinet. He also praised Hezbollah for its sacrifices, reiterating everyone's desire to reject the language of war and violence.

Hariri also insisted that the Lebanese-Syrian border must be clearly demarcated and criticised Syrian President Basher al-Assad for his statements before the Arab Bar Association in Damascus last Saturday in which the latter rejected this process [border demarcation] and blamed certain Lebanese leaders for the spate of terrorist attacks that have occurred in Lebanon since October 2004. Instead, Hariri accused the Syrian government "of masterminding all these acts of violence with Assad's full knowledge."

On the eve of his departure for Jordan where he is scheduled to meet King Abdallah II and his Jordanian counterpart Maaruf al-Bakhit, Prime Minister Fouad Siniora told AsiaNews that his government "was fully ready to co-operate with any Arab initiative".

He rejected charges levelled at him and Saad Hariri's Future Party for scuttling the reconciliation deal with Syria brokered by Saudi King Abdullah and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

After his Amman visit, Siniora will travel to Cairo where he will meet Mubarak and Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmad Nazif.

Today, at a reception for the diplomatic corps in post in Beirut led by the apostolic nuncio, Mgr Luigi Gatti, Lebanon's President Émile Lahoud renewed his appeal to the international community to remain "neutral" in the ongoing crisis.

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